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There are a number of ways you could go when deciding what to pay models. Ultimately it is a choice that will impact your business. We are going to go over our philosophy and share what we are currently doing.

The Demand

Let’s get something out of the way up front though. In 2018 we had 4,000+ people apply to model for us. The supply of models far outweighs the number of paying jobs, both in Atlanta where we are located, and nationally. At most of our castings we will have models offer to pay us to be hired. If you just wanted to “hire” free models, you could do that anytime you wanted. But, is that what you SHOULD do? No, absolutely not.

Work With The Best

We want to work with the best. Our philosophy at every shoot is to try to hit a home run, actually a grand slam. If we are shooting a group of nurses, our hope on that day is that it will be the best nursing shoot ever done. Often, and I mean very often, our pictures will rank #1 in the world for any given search category. The only way you can begin to accomplish that is by working with the best models possible.

The Best Deserve To Be Paid

A few years ago Adobe invited what they considered to be the top 25 commercial stock photographers in the world to a summit. I was honored to be picked by them. When I was there talking to a few executives, one of the comments they made was about the models we use. They remarked about the diversity and quality of the models that we worked with. You can build your brand and your business by insisting on working with top flight models.

What To Pay Models
The Best Deserve To Be Paid

It’s A Relationship

We consider ourselves to be in a relationship with the models we employ. We are all human, working together to achieve our dreams. The better we treat the models, the more willing they will be to work with us. If we were ever in a pinch, there are probably 100 models we could call, that would drop everything and come help us out.

Before we sold our house last year, models would drop by with dinner, or just come by to chat. Our door is always open to them, no matter if they need something or not. They invite us to their parties, their kids parties, and just about any significant event in their lives. We love it.

We don’t just hire anyone. As model scouts, we are actually very selective. But when we find people that are worth investing in, we absolutely invest whatever we can in them. There are models we’ve invested so much in, and worked so many times with, that we really don’t even need to speak on set. They just know what we want. That is so valuable.

Payment Is A Form Of Respect

For the most part, models aren’t paid life changing money for any given shoot. What is life changing though is the respect earned through a paying modeling job. We consider our payments to models a form of respect. We recognize that most of the models we encounter have spent years and thousands of dollars to attain the skill they use for us.

It’s a sign of progress for them. For many, the payment is more about being paid, than the amount being paid. This is especially true for mothers of teens. The look of pride given when their child gets paid is very memorable. As photographers, when we refuse to pay models, just because we can, we rob them of this essential progress.

What Do We Pay?

We pay money at the shoot and then also usually give out end of year bonuses, in the form of gifts or trips. Models are paid more for an individual shoot than a group shoot and teens/adults are usually paid more than children.

We base the pay rate on what we think each model will be able to produce in sales. At the end of the year we realize certain models have outperformed what we paid them. They usually get some type of bonus or gift. In years past we’ve given gifts at our Christmas party. Last year we took them all to Disney.

The rates of pay look like this (teen/adult):

  • Individual Shoot $25-$50 an hour
  • Group Shoot (2-5 models) $25-$33 an hour
  • Group Shoot (8-10 models) $10-$20 an hour

Talent Matters

We generally reserve individual shoots and bonuses for models we’ve worked with for some time. They are the ones who’ve proven themselves and earned those things. From time to time though we meet someone so incredibly talented with the perfect modeling look that we skip them right though.

This past year for example, we invited a model to our year end Disney trip, at a casting! Why would we offer someone something that would cost us thousands of dollars if we had never worked with them? Talent. She was easily one of the top 3 models we’ve ever met.

Talent is easy to spot but hard to find. If you are a good model scout you’ll know when you’ve found talent. I sometimes give feedback to a model during a casting. At one casting last year I told a model, “There is literally nothing you can do to mess this up.” She ended up excelling all year and was one of our top models. Her talent was obvious

The bottom line is that you need talented models to make your business thrive. Why not invest in and work with the best possible ones you can find.

We are excited about the upcoming year because we’ve already connected with several models on Instagram that we are interested in hiring. It should be another great year.

Model Rates

Models will advertise rates because they need to. Everything has to have a starting point. That is the rate they would quote you if you just emailed them directly. Those rates can be all over the board. In reality though, rates are fluid. In a market where there is an over supply of models, they don’t necessarily set the going rate. By having rates, what they are saying is that they expect to be paid and treated well. We respect and encourage that. Models should advertise “rates available”. It lets us know they are taking this seriously.

Model rates have never been a problem for us, so we don’t see it as a negative. Only twice in the last 13 years has a model decided not to work with us based on the rate not being enough.

Where Should You Start?

Start small. If you aren’t currently paying models or are new to commercial photography, start with $10 an hour. They will appreciate it. As you start to earn more money you can raise the rate. If someone helps you become really successful, consider a bonus.

Stock Photography Guide – What To Pay Models

This post, what to pay models, is part of our Stock Photography Guide. Read the rest to start earning money with your photos.

Rob Marmion

Rob is a commercial photographer with North Georgia Media. He has had over 650,000 pictures published in a variety of media. We sell many of our pictures at Shutterstock. You can earn money selling your pictures there too!

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